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Capt. Vernon Richard of Spring Valley was a member of Tower Ladder 7 in Manhattan. Those who knew Vernon Allan Richard said he was a gentleman who impressed people with his quiet dignity and a respect for all, from his fellow firefighter to a homeless person on the street.
The Spring Valley man was a lieutenant with the New York City Fire Department, a member of Tower Ladder 7 in Manhattan, and was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center.
At his memorial service at St. Anthony's Church in Nanuet, ladder company colleague Lt. Robert Kirwan said Richard had led his men to the 100th floor of the South Tower in their rescue effort. Tom Curley, Richard's friend for more than 27 years, said he and his fellow firefighters have been touched by Richard's honor and courage. "Vernon always left something good behind," Curley told the mourners who packed the church.
During the service, which was led by the Rev. Weldon McWilliams Jr. of First Baptist Church in Spring Valley, of which Richard was a member and a deacon, Richard was praised for being a true hero who always lived by his words.
The choir of First Baptist Church gave several poignant renditions, and emotions overflowed when Richard's best friend, Alvin Jones, told people how much Richard had meant to him.
"Fifty years of friendship," he said, then stopped and turned away to wipe his tears. "I miss Vernon, I miss him a lot," he continued. "He was a good friend - I loved him, I loved him and I will always love him, oh God."
Richard's sister Juanita Thaxton spoke about her brother's "charm and never-ending wit," and said he would always be her hero. His son, Vernon Allan Richard II, said his father's priorities were God, family and work. Richard and his wife, Dorothy, were married in 1970. They also have a daughter, Vernessa.
To Richard's colleagues, he was a leader and a role model who would always greet them with a smile and a "hey, handsome," a phrase which became his trademark greeting.
Before joining the FDNY in 1977, Richard worked with Con Edison in the Bronx. He was promoted to captain five days after his death. Lt. Paul Washington, president of the Vulcan Society, a fraternity of African-American firefighters of which Richard was a member, said Richard was a friend, a mentor and an inspiration. They had been in the process of starting a charter school in Brooklyn, and Washington said Richard was excited about the project. "Vernon wasn't a dreamer - Vernon was a doer," he said, adding that if Richard believed in something, he would support it with all his heart.